PUSHING THE ENVELOPE ON HEALTH CARE SCARE TACTICS…. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee and a guy rumored to take policy matters seriously, has a lengthy item in the American Spectator today, arguing that reforming the health care system is, believe it or not, un-American. At a minimum, he says, reform contradicts the “American character.”

In fact, Ryan makes the case that Comparative Effectiveness Research — knowing which medical treatments work, and sharing that information with providers — would bring the U.S. system in line with the British health care system. And because Britain has “a rationing bureaucracy” in place, reforming the U.S. system would mean government control over the length of Americans’ lives.

The idea that the government should make decisions about how long people should live is deeply offensive to everything America stands for. It is no answer to say that health care resources are limited and will be rationed one way or another.

Under systems of market freedom, the limited amount of all services and goods, including health care, are rationed by individuals and their personal caregivers as they allocate their own resources among many competing producers. But should government do this, based on financial spreadsheets and political pressure groups? I believe this is morally and politically abhorrent to all Americans because it denies our most basic personal rights.

Yep, if we reform the broken system that’s bankrupting the government, businesses, and families, government may “make decisions about how long people should live.” Ryan finds that idea “offensive.” I would too if this was in any way grounded in reality.

If you’re thinking this nonsense is starting to sound like the foolishness we heard from conservative activists decades ago when Medicare was being formed, then we’re on the same page.

Indeed, it’s worth noting that as Republican desperation has become more palpable, there’s a preoccupation with the “reform = literal death” meme. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) thinks reform will “end up killing more people than it saves.” Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.) thinks reform will tell senior citizens to “drop dead.” Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) argued that a public option “is gonna kill people.” A variety of right-wing House Republicans have given floor speeches saying Americans may “die” if the Democratic proposals become law.

It’s almost a cartoonish kind of demagoguery. To parody the most shameless of scare tactics would be to characterize opponents as saying, “You’re all going to die!” Given reality, the line between Republican tactics and exaggerated satire is practically non-existent.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.